UW Today

November 8, 2011

UW film series begins with documentaries on Chinese industrialization, American shopping malls

News and Information

The UW geography department will host its second film series that explores themes related to cities, health and environments.

The film screenings begin this month and will continue into the spring. They are free, open to the public and will be held at the UW Seattle campus.

The film series name, “Reel to Real: Cities, Health and Environment,” draws upon the geography departments undergraduate curriculum and some of the research and community engagement projects pursued by UW geographers.

“Last year the UW geography faculty decided that the broad themes of cities, health and environment get at the very heart of what geographers at UW do,” said Kim England, UW geography professor and the organizer of this years series.

But the cities, health and environment theme is relevant to a broader audience, and England encourages non-geography students and the public to attend the films.

“We see these three issues in their various combinations as impacting all of us both locally here in Seattle, as well as reminding us how connected we are with other places and people across the globe,” England said.

The first film in the series, Manufactured Landscapes, inspects industrialization in China. It follows famed photographer Edward Burtynskys travels through China, during which he photographs quarries, recycling yards, factories, mines, dams and other evidence of the countrys industrial revolution and its environmental costs. The documentary will be shown Nov. 9, 2:30-4:30 p.m. in the Allen Auditorium.

On Nov. 30, the department will show Malls R Us, which examines how enclosed shopping centers in North America serve as communal and sometimes ceremonial spaces for shoppers. And for retailers, malls can merge their idealism, passion and greed. The film will be shown Nov. 20, 2:30-4:30 p.m. in the Allen Auditorium.

“These two movies both get at themes of landscapes, inequality, globalization, over-consumption and sustainability,” England said. “I was surprised at how many ways these two seemingly quite different films talked to each other: Chinese factory workers and American shoppers, piles of industrial trash in China and abandoned shopping malls in suburban America.”

The organizers will select additional films to be shown in the winter and spring, check the geography departments homepage for updates.

Suzanne Davies Withers, UW associate professor of geography, started the film series last fall as a way to encourage students to come together to discuss issues and concerns in a context other than in the classroom. “The Reel to Real Film Series is our way of trying to get our community to stop ‘bowling alone,” said Withers, referring to a book describing how we are increasingly disconnected from others.

“By years end we had toured the globe together visually through film, giving pause and consideration to pressing global and local issues such as access to clean water and the increasing privatization of everything from land to water, from genes to garbage,” said Withers, of last years film series. The series even inspired some students to change their habits, such as by avoiding bottled water and eating local foods.

As for fostering conversations outside the classroom, Withers said the series was a success, because many students went out to restaurants on University Ave. after the films to continue discussing the films and the students maintained a Facebook page for the series.

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